St. Philip's College, San Antonio Food Bank partner to offer campus pantry

Disturbing amount of students food insecure, survey says

By Marilyn Moritz - Reporter, Robert Samarron - Photojournalist

Marissa Arredondo stresses about more than mid-terms.

"I felt a little embarrassed, admitting that I need help."

Arredondo is a student St. Philip's College where she and other students now can get help with groceries by way of a well-stocked food pantry. It's the result of a partnership between the Alamo Colleges District and the San Antonio Food Bank.

"Having a food bank here on campus is  monumental," said St. Philip's College President Dr. Adena Williams Loston.

The pantry, stocked with tuna, rice, peanut butter, soups, stews and more, is located on the first floor of the Sutton Learning Center at the east side campus. Students can grab a snack or a bag of groceries.

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Food insecurity is a growing concern at campuses across the country, community colleges in particular where students are more likely to be on their own, live off campus and working.

"Working a part-time job, having to get groceries, paying the bills, it's a lot to handle," Arredondo said.

Food pantries are becoming more common on college campuses to help students gain access to healthy food. With the addition of  St. Philip's, all five Alamo Colleges now have one.

A survey done by the District last year revealed disturbing numbers – 47 percent of students said they were food insecure.

"We have students who are homeless, hungry, no place to sleep. We have students who have aged out of the foster care system," Loston said. "Having a meal can make all the difference in their success by being able to focus in the classroom."

The San Antonio Food Bank is financially supporting the pantries , with a commitment of $1.5 million in food and an additional $1.5 million in SNAP  (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits.   The Food Bank also will place benefits managers at each of the five campuses to help students access various services.

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SA Food Bank CEO Eric Cooper said by providing food, the hope is students will be less likely to drop out, leading to long-term self sufficiency.

"it's really an effort to meet that basic need for that time frame of students getting their education to improve their odds of graduating," Cooper said.

Arredondo intends to do just that. She's pursuing a degree in health information technologies. She says the pantry helps ease the stress along the way.

"I'm also learning as I go," she said. "So, it's a big help."

The food pantry is part of the Safe Space Advocacy Center which offers other services such as financial literacy, emergency financial assistance and counseling.

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